Once upon a time, there was a faddish pastime that rose to tremendous heights during the 1990s. Called “pogs” (after the POG drink, whose caps had been used for this game for years), it (more or less) involved throwing down a thicker metal or plastic disc (the “slammer”) onto a pile of cardboard discs (the “pogs” or “milkcaps” or “caps”), and the caps that were flipped over would be taken by that player.
In the early to mid-1990s, our comic book store was undergoing the same economic distress every comic shop was experiencing. After a huge market boom beginning in the late 1980s, everything had come crashing down due to an oversaturation of product and an overemphasis on investment, and comic shops were desperate for just about anything to keep them afloat. We were lucky, in that we still maintained a reasonably strong customer base, and we managed to survive when nearly all the shops that had opened in our immediate area during the boom disappeared. However, things were still pretty tight, and we needed new ways to keep up the cash flow.
On one hand, we still had our gaming section. Role playing games and miniature games were still doing well, and that brought in some revenue. The 1993 advent of Magic The Gathering certainly helped in that regard.
On the other hand…there were pogs.
It came sort of out of nowhere, but suddenly, in about 1993, just as the comic market was seemingly on its last legs, in came these little cardboard and metal discs and the attendant armies of children clamoring for them. We had a parade of pog distributors passing through our doors, each with a new assortment of caps and slammers and pogtubes for us to pick through, though we mostly just stuck with this one guy…ah, Dave, I wonder whatever happened to you? We had areas in our glass cases, usually devoted to expensive comics, set aside for the newest slammers. We took and filled special orders. We moved thousands and thousands of the things.
And then, just a couple of years later, it was over. Fortunately for us, we weren’t stuck with too much dead pog stock. Everything we had left over easily fit into a comic box, which was stashed in the back room ’til an eBay sale rid us of it.
I’ve never made any secret that I wasn’t much of a fan of that whole pog scene. As games went, it didn’t seem…particularly challenging, and the marketing was a little too obviously exploitative and cynical (as opposed to all that non-exploitative and cynical marketing that’s out there, I know). I didn’t really feel good about myself about being part of it, but I chalked it up to “desperate times calling for desperate measures” — an explanation, not an excuse, if there ever was one. But I figured pogs was a thing of the past, and that I’d never have to think about them or deal with them ever again.
Jump to August 2012. Friends of the store owner tell him that they have a storage unit filled with the contents of what was once a 1990s pog store, and they don’t know what to do with it, so say, why don’t you take all this stuff and try to make some money with it?
And there we were, one unloading of a moving truck later, with Mount Pog in one corner of the shop, and me gazing upon it, trying not to hyperventilate.
Okay, it’s not quite as bad as all that. Well, not about Mount Pog…we have boxes upon boxes of the things occupying a significant chunk of floorspace. But I wasn’t really on the verge of a nervous breakdown…I was surprised to find I was more bemused by the whole thing, and able to look back a bit more objectively upon the pog craze as the embodiment of faddish excess and market exploitation that it was.
If you want to read a little more comprehensive history of the pog phenomenon, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start. If you want more details on specific cap sets, as well as playing techniques and storage tips, you might want to look here.
My intention on this site is to appreciate the pog as…well, I hesitate to refer to this as “an art form.” Certainly a marketing form, at the very least. But some of these caps are peculiar, amusing, and, yes, sometimes actually artistic, and could bear some extra scrutiny now that the fad is safely behind us. …At least, I think it’s behind us. Anyway, there will be lots of scans on this site of caps and related items as we dig them out of this collection we acquired, and I hope you enjoy this parade of pog nostalgia while I’m simultaneously indulging myself in a little self-prescribed therapy.